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Drone prompts runway closure at London's Gatwick Airport

Drone prompts runway closure at London's Gatwick Airport
Posted at 8:11 AM, Jul 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-03 08:11:33-04

(CNN) -- Passengers traveling through London's Gatwick Airport were hit with delays and diversions Sunday night after a drone caused a security incident.

The airport closed its runway for almost a quarter of an hour over reports of a drone in the vicinity.

"Unconfirmed reports of a drone sighting led to runway suspension for a total of 14 mins. Operations fully resumed and police investigating," the airport wrote on its official Twitter account.

The knock-on effect of a brief shutdown at the UK's second largest airport caused four easyJet flights to be rerouted.

"Once refueled three flights continued onto London Gatwick and easyJet made arrangements onto London Gatwick for as many passengers as possible on flight EZY8832 from Bodrum that diverted to London Southend. All other passengers were advised to make their own arrangements which easyJet will reimburse them for," the airline said in a statement.

It added, "While the circumstances are outside of our control, easyJet apologizes for any inconvenience caused."

An additional British Airways flight was, according to local media reports, also impacted. But when asked, a spokesperson for the carrier said "a number of airlines were affected" and directed CNN inquiries to the airport.

Dodging drones

Incidents involving drones have increased in recent years with 70 close encounters reported in 2016, according to the UK Airprox Board, which monitors airline safety.

Alongside the uptick, the UK's Civil Aviation Authority has introduced rules for operators asking them to avoid flying near airports and airfields, to ensure their craft is always within line of sight, not to fly above 400 ft (120m) and to never fly near aircraft.

Drones flying too close to commercial flights pose a serious threat to larger aircraft, and can be sucked into the engine or crash into the cockpit window, injuring or killing a pilot.

Last November, a passenger plane narrowly avoided a collision with a drone over central London, a UK Airport Board report said.

The incident came just seven months after an investigation was launched when a drone was thought to have struck a flight on its approach into London's Heathrow Airport.